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Amphibians in Movies
Witch Hunt (1994)
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
This is an HBO TV movie fantasy mystery about Los Angeles in the 1950s in a time where magic is commonly used in daily life for anything from lighting a cigarette with a finger to a movie producer hiring a witch to bring Shakespeare from the past to write screenplays. Loosely based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft, it features a private detective named H. Philip Lovecraft. The movie is a sequel to "Cast a Deadly Spell," a 1991 HBO movie also set in L. A. in a world full of magic that also uses detective Lovecraft and some of the same characters, but it's set in 1948 instead of the 1950s. You don't need to watch the first one to understand the second. What I don't understand about the magic universe of both movies is why magic is only used occasionally by a few people instead of all the time by everybody. Why doesn't everyone use a flying car and live like a movie star?

Lovecraft refuses to use magic in his detective work because it makes people lazy, but his landlord is a witch for hire named Kropotkin who gets caught up in the witch hunt of U.S. Senator Larson Crockett who is modeled after Joseph McCarthy and his communist witch hunts that scandalized Hollywood in the early 1950s until McCarthy was condemned as a demagogue by his own Senate. Crockett's slogan is "No more magic in Hollywood" and maybe he succeeded, because this one could have used a little more magic in its script and production. But it does have its moments, including several snake (which you can see on this page) and a rare movie appearance of a live salamander.

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Lovecraft goes to a political rally held by Senator Crockett where he sees Finn Macha, a thug for hire who uses magic and is secretly working for the Senator despite his public campaign to rid the world of magic. Like the villains at the end of all bad movies they readily confess to the various crimes and murders that we've seen. Crockett admits that his entire campaign against magic is a fraud, and they admit that they framed the witch Kropotkin, who is jeered by an excited crowd chanting "Burn the witch!" Then Crockett double-crosses Macha, takes his briefcase full of money, and orders that he and Lovecraft be arrested for bribery. Macha gets angry and tells the Senator you don't doublecross Macha. "I see what's inside and I bring it out." Crockett tells him: "What you are is an insignificant little Mick." (He's Irish.) Macha says "The crack of Solomon on your heart" then he spits a salamander onto Crockett's shoulder. Crockett brushes it off onto the floor and crushes it with his shoe.

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Crockett tells his henchmen to bring Macha and Lovecraft out to the stage to watch his show. Kropotkin is brought in and tied to a stake where she will be burned to death, and Crockett begins his speech at the podium. As he is telling the audience that America is going to be great again and that the witch they burn tonight will set off witch burnings all across the country, he starts to choke, then he spits out a huge frog onto the podium. He tries to continue his speech, but instead he falls to the ground where another version of himself crawls out of him. (Lovecraft later describes this as Crockett coming out of his shell.) This new version of the Senator is dressed in black with wild hair, has a snake tattooed onto his arm, curses at the audience, and starts telling them the truth. Instead of a better life, they're going to get porno video, double-digit inflation, a designated hitter, and wars in countries they never even heard of. That's not a bad prediction, considering it was made in the 1950s when nobody could even conceive of the designated hitter rule, but once again, it's another example of someone in the past failing to predict the evils of the internet and social media.

The salamander we see is a live one. You can briefly see one of its legs move before it is brushed to the ground. It's hard to tell what species it is, but it resembles a California Tiger Salamander, a species with lungs that is more able to tolerate the dry conditions of a movie set, though it's possible that they were not concerned with the welfare of the animals used since there is no American Humane Society disclaimer in the credits.

The frog is an African Bullfrog or "pixie frog," which is common in the pet trade.

Thanks to Melanie at The Silver Scream for telling me about this movie. You can watch the movie and read a review of it at The Silver Scream.